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Will Forte on How OCD Helped Him Get to ‘Nebraska’

January 24, 2014

Best known for his goofy special ops agent character, MacGruber, actor Will Forte is getting high praise for his dramatic turn in Alexander Payne’s Oscar-nominated film, Nebraska. And he’s given us one more reason to love him: his winning openness about living with OCD.

Though Forte admits it can be challenging, he also embraces his OCD as a part of his personality. For instance, this from an interview on NPR’s Here & Now:

It really helps because I need closure on stuff, I need completion. And in some ways it creates a real hyper focus, but in other ways I overthink things so I can really stress out about stuff and blow things out of proportion and worry a lot. But more than anything, I think it’s – hey, you know, it’s who I am as a person. In a lot of ways I don’t know that I would have gotten to do some of the things that I got to do if it wasn’t for exactly the way my brain has driven me crazy.

A veteran of SNL, Forte still enjoys playing kooky characters (and recently earned an Emmy nod for playing Jenna Maroney’s cross-dressing boyfriend on 30 Rock), but the role of Bruce Dern’s son in Nebraska is the one closest to himself that he’s played on screen, and he embraced the change.

For me it’s always this wacky character and you can hide behind the character. And this, in a way, was easier because the character was way more like me in my real life, but harder because you feel like you’re revealing all your personal moments and secrets, and it made you feel really vulnerable.

Diving into the world of film festivals and award shows hasn’t been without stress, and Forte acknowledges his OCD flare-ups. In a delightful chat with comic Marc Maron (who’s had his own struggles with OCD) on the latter’s podcast, he discussed his anxiety at attending the Cannes Festival. His biggest obstacle? A linen suit. Having never worn linen, Forte obsessed on awkwardly walking around stiff legged, trying to stay wrinkle free.

Maron: You’re a fish out of water, it’s a new experience, you got a lot going on that you’ve never had to deal with before… I mean, what would you rather think about, how overwhelming that is, or whether you’re going to wrinkle your pants?

Forte: Yeah, I never thought about it like that. There’s something to that for sure.

New opportunities and experiences continue to offer moments of revelation for Forte. While filming in a remote area of Ireland for another dramatic role as a cognitive neuropsychologist in the indie movie, Run and Jump, Forte was away from his family, working with people unfamiliar to him, and alone with his thoughts. In an interview with The Daily Beast, he talked about how this experience forced him to confront his issues with OCD.

It comes in waves. It definitely affects my everyday life. Mine is a lot of checking locks in patterns, checking stoves that I rarely use to see if the gas is on, or sinks. I don’t want to burn my house down or flood my house. But oddly, the experience in Ireland really had a major effect on my OCD. I had so much time alone and so much time to think about stuff that I realized, “Why am I letting this OCD rule my life the way that it does? We’re all gonna die at some point, so what if all my possessions burned down in a fire, or my house gets flooded? What am I scared of losing?”

Forte’s comment reminds us that we’re all still figuring things out and that’s okay because the fun is in the journey to these new, unexpected places.

Tagged with: OCD: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, Pop Culture